Thirty years ago, Will Stone wouldn’t have had the Internet to help him figure out how fast he’d need to run his local Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon in order to set a new world record.
But times have changed since 1984, when the previous record for 9-year-old athletes was set, and going into the race on Sunday, February 23, the fourth-grader from Largo, FL, knew what time he needed to beat.
The mark was 1:41:45, according to the Association of Road Racing Statisticians website, and on the same day that professional distance runner Ryan Vail smashed the Gasparilla Distance Classic course record—finishing in 1:04:06 and taking nearly six minutes off the previous mark—Stone managed to steal the show.
That’s because he accomplished his goal, finishing in 1:41:07.
“I beat the world record,” Stone said afterward, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “and it feels so good.”
Already a “nationally recognized triathlete,” according to the Times, Stone got a little help from his father, St. Petersburg police officer William Stone, who ran with his son for the first 10 miles before falling back and finishing in 1:43.46.
Will covered the final three and change on his own, and when it was over, the grinning Oakhurst Elementary student raced to find his mother, medal in hand. She confirmed the good news: He had, indeed, beaten the record set by Anders Trygg on May 12, 1984.
The reintroduction of prize money at the Gasparilla Distance Classic attracted a talented field of elite runners, and for Will, that made the day all the more special.
“When elite runners passed, I showed Will. I said, ‘There’s Olympians right there,’” the elder Stone said, according to the Times. “He totally wants to be an Olympian one day. Hopefully he will.”
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg